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Bobby Constantino

Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy


Despite widespread media attention and an outsized profile in United States popular culture, the criminal legal system writ large has mostly evaded intensive cost benefit analysis scrutiny. There is ample evidence that the vast majority of crimes that occur are never processed into the system (and that the people who do enter it return at high rates), rampant misconduct from the first point of system contact to the last, and salaries, overtime, and other costs ballooning while caseloads steadily decrease, yet the criminal legal system continues to enjoy a popular reputation as the nation’s primary public safety lever. Students enrolled in this course will spend the semester identifying and gathering public and internal budgeting and administrative caseload data from the constellation of agencies that comprise the criminal legal system in a select jurisdiction. Students will calculate the true cost of the system to taxpayers in their chosen jurisdiction, identifying any hidden or unstated costs, and attempt to calculate the public safety benefits the public receives in return. After completing their analysis, students will produce their findings to relevant stakeholders and attempt to make the case whether or not the benefits of the system in their chosen jurisdiction are worth the costs. There are no prerequisite courses to take prior to enrolling in this course, but students will benefit the most from it if they have prior knowledge of the criminal legal system's variant jurisdictional configurations. Students are not required to have prior budget auditing, data analysis, or coding experience, though these skills will be useful.